Chapter 41: Inspection

“Who knows? I heard it’s because some felon escaped. But the authorities had also mentioned last month that they were in the midst of a secret military exercise, and the entire city might be placed under martial law for a period of five or six years. Do you know something? Even our local forums are going crazy! There are armed policemen patrolling every corner of the city. It’s practically a lockdown.”

After exchanging a few more words, the young man left their car.

Wang Chenghao blinked vacantly at Qin Ye. Qin Ye lit a cigarette, took a long drag and muttered, “Things might be a little less optimistic than I had thought.”

“I’ve just discovered something. It seems like Westriver was the last province to have begun broadcasting those public announcements. It was also the last province to have implemented a curfew. They’re located at the base of Daofather Zhang’s foothold after all…”

Qin Ye squinted his eyes and gazed at the City of Salvation, “If the City of Salvation had already been placed under a curfew since four months ago, this must mean that the supernatural incidents are already a proliferate occurrence. I think it is safe to say that the magnitude of the gathering of ghosts and governmental agents in the city is going to be of a whole different scale than the one seen in Clear Creek County.”

After all, he could see that there was a large cloud of ominous Yin energy hovering over the heart of the city, just like a lid over a cauldron!

Even he couldn’t fathom what had become of the city on the inside.

How much resources and manpower did the government have to invest in order to keep things sufficiently under wraps so that their citizens would remain oblivious and could continue leading a normal life?

The thought of these things filled Qin Ye with pride at the might of his nation for a moment.

“Hmm? Why do you look so puzzled?”

Wang Chenghao’s lips twitched slightly, “Nothing much… I was just thinking, didn’t I give you RMB 300,000 earlier? Why did you still take money from my wallet earlier - and so naturally at that…”

The traffic was finally flowing once more. Thirty minutes later, the tollbooth was finally in sight. Just then, Qin Ye’s eyes shifted and he muttered in a low voice, “Later, I want you to remain calm. Let me do the talking.”

“What?” Wang Chenghao’s body tensed up slightly, and Qin Ye slapped his back, “Steady yourself. If you want to achieve great things in life, you’ll have to present yourself with an unwavering spirit even if Mount Tai collapses right in front of your eyes. Even if unexpected, this is nothing more than a routine inspection. Don’t give anything away.”

Wang Chenghao gasped, “Is it... triggered by the people from Westriver?”

They had travelled a long distance from Westriver, and their disappearance should already have been discovered by the authorities. Thus, they prepared several countermeasures to deal with any possible exigencies that might occur. Yet, they were never stopped a single time along the road earlier. This left them somewhat puzzled.

“I don’t know.” Qin Ye leaned back in his seat, “If anything comes up later, be ready to run at any moment.”

“... Didn’t you just say to present yourself with an unwavering spirit even if Mount Tai collapses right in front of your eyes?!”

Qin Ye rolled his eyes, “What’s the link between having an unwavering spirit and making a tactical retreat?”

Wang Chenghao felt incredibly exasperated. His expression looked as ugly as a person who had just eaten shit.

Are you telling me to maintain an unwavering appearance while running as fast as I can?

Or are you saying that you’ll remain calm, while I run for my life?

Bloody hell… even though everything sounds logical and prim and proper, I still can’t help but feel as though something’s wrong with this suggestion… Is this just an illusion of the mind?

As they drew closer and closer to the entrance, Wang Chenghao suddenly did a double take at it. He gasped and instantly tightened his grip around the steering wheel.

The military.

This was merely an entrance to a small prefecture-level city, yet it was presently guarded by nearly a hundred armed policemen fully equipped with guns and live rounds. There were nearly ten police cars with their blue-and-red warning lights spinning incessantly. Apart from the toll booth, there was also a massive tent located just behind the toll booth which had been erected across the entire national highway leading into the city!

It looked just like the mouth of a giant beast that swallowed up vehicle after vehicle. The huge toll booth appeared incredibly gloomy and still. The black barrels of guns encampments were followed by three sets of barriers. Nobody passing through the toll booth dared to make a scene at all.

It was soon their turn to pass through the toll booth. They first passed through the electronic toll booth. Heavily armed soldiers wearing their camouflage uniforms and helmets stood guard in rows on both sides of the booths, causing the otherwise ordinary looking drive-through booths to feel absolutely somber and desolate.

Additionally, the toll booths which used to be largely manned by female employees were now instead replaced by men in black suits wearing stern expressions on their faces. They even wore on their chests a triangle badge with the design of an eye in the center. That said, Qin Ye refrained from letting his gaze linger on these badges for too long.

They cleared the electronic toll booths, yet the barrier didn’t lift for them.

“Uncle, what’s going on?” Wang Chenghao wound down his window and asked the man in the booth.

Looking at his computer, the man in the suit responded, “A vehicle from Westriver?”

“Yes. What’s the matter?”

The man in the suit hit a button, “First lane on the right.”

Wang Chenghao shrank back to his seat in frustration and made his way to the right. It was only then that he realized all the cars in the first lane were cars from other provinces!

Furthermore, things were different on this lane.

Those who passed by the dark, gloomy tent were all surrounded by armed policemen. However, there wasn’t a single policeman manning this lane at all.

Instead, this lane was simply equipped with several infrared sensors, each of which were located three paces apart from the other. These cameras were everywhere, both above and under, and all around the vehicles. They were designed to scan and capture every single detail, including the underside of the vehicle!

“Haa…” Qin Ye drew a deep breath. The country was truly mobilizing its resources… As long as a sovereign nation put its mind to it, there was simply nothing that was out of its reach.

Every lane in this part of the toll booths led into a closed tent. As soon as a vehicle drew close to the tent, its entrance would open up, revealing a dazzling bright light from within.

Garrisoned units were stationed every three to five paces apart within the tents, and each time the tent opened up, only one car would be allowed to pass!

“Dear drivers and passengers.” A pleasant female voice cut through the silence as the announcement continued to play, “Welcome to the City of Salvation. The City of Salvation is located at the southeastern border of the Insignia Province…”

After several seconds of introductions, the female voice continued, “... In light of the large-scale military exercise taking place in the City of Salvation, the City of Salvation has raised its security alert level to ‘orange’. All incoming and outgoing vehicles and personnel must be thoroughly inspected. All who refuse to cooperate shall be turned away. All who violate the rules shall suffer the consequences of their actions. Thank you once again for your cooperation…”

Wang Chenghao and Qin Ye looked at each other, before turning their gaze to the large steel barrier that had just descended right in front of them. They sensibly alighted from their car.

A man in a black suit was already waiting for them outside of their car. He nodded at them, and walked towards a small makeshift tent nearby.

The tent was simple and plain. An old man with white hair and a chiseled face sat behind an office desk. Two chairs were located on the other side of his desk. Apart from the computer, the only other thing that sat on his desk was a small object that looked just like a crystal ball. As soon as they walked in, the old man lifted his chin and directed them to take a seat in front of him.

The old man stared straight into their eyes, almost as though his gaze were staring straight through their souls. Seconds later, he began his routine line of questions, “What business do you have in the City of Salvation?”

He didn’t even ask for their name, address, or other vital information for verification purposes. The first question that he immediately got to pertained to their purpose of visit.

Concise and straightforward.

There was hardly any room for consideration, nor was there a need for him to conceal his intentions.

As soon as the man spoke, Qin Ye’s fists immediately tightened underneath the table.

It was the breath of a cultivator.

The officer conducting routine investigations is actually a cultivator!

And the fluctuations in his breath tells me that he’s ready to strike at a moment’s notice!

His abilities weren’t even at the level of an Operative-class Emissary of Hell. Yet, the fact that a cultivator was deployed in such a routine investigation spoke volumes about the depths of the military might deployed within the City of Salvation.

Wang Chenghao’s body had been incredibly tense and stiff as soon as he entered the tent. After all, a single breath of true energy from a cultivator had the ability to strike fear into the hearts of mere mortals. Thus, Qin Ye discreetly patted Wang Chenghao’s hand as he feigned nervousness, “G-going to school…”

“What school? It’s not even time for matriculation yet.”

Qin Ye immediately responded, “My father’s relative is Deputy Attorney General Zhang Baoguo. I’m transferring here for studies this year.”

“Deputy Attorney General Zhang Baoguo?” The old man raised his eyebrow in surprise and gazed at them for several more moments, “Alright.”

Old Zhang’s name carries a lot of weight indeed… Qin Ye was just about to stand up when the old man at the desk suddenly spoke up again, “Hang on.”

There was silence in the room for a moment.

Seconds later, he continued, “Place your hand on the crystal ball and don’t think about anything else. Empty your mind. I’ll tell you when you can retract your arm after that.”

The duo did as they were told.

Qin Ye shut his eyes. Just as he was emptying his mind, he suddenly felt the Yin energy within his body tremble slightly.

Yin energy detector!

He didn’t know what exactly this device was called, but he nevertheless understood the effects of the crystal ball immediately - it was able to detect any ghost that was masquerading as a normal human being in just an instant.

The government’s research and development has already advanced so much?

This was hardly apparent earlier in Westriver simply because there was simply no need for the deployment of such tools. After all, Westriver was within such close proximity to the Dao Ancestral Halls. However, the further away from Westriver they got, the more they found themselves astonished by the nation’s developments. It was just like they had left the eye of the storm, only to be surprised by the tumultuous winds and waves around. Most of all, Qin Ye was astounded by the fact that he had misjudged the situation so greatly.

Fortunately, the simple instrument before him was completely ineffective against him.

“Alright, we’re done.” The old man finally wrapped things up approximately ten seconds later, just as Wang Chenghao’s restlessness was about to get to him. The duo glanced at each other, only to notice that some trace amounts of Yin energy appeared to be swirling about within the crystal ball.

It was almost as though there was a wisp of black cloud gathered within the otherwise transparent crystal ball.

“You can go. This is a gentle reminder that the first thing you should do when you arrive is to register your place of residence. Furthermore, you must also carry your temporary residence permit with you at all times. There will be a major sweep across the city every fifteen days. If you don’t have your temporary residence permit with you, and you’re unable to produce any form of proof of identity, you’ll immediately be taken into custody. Students aren’t exempted from this rule either.”

Qin Ye led the way and left. As soon as they departed, the old man immediately turned around and began typing on his computer. In no time, the image of Wang Chenghao’s vehicle showed up on the screen for his inspection along all six degrees of freedom.  Wang Chenghao and Qin Ye’s headshots also appeared on the screen as well.

“License plate: West EC43251.”

“Passengers: 2.”

“Purpose of visit: Studies.”

“Yin energy readings: 52 Yin. Energy readings below 100 indicates that they might recently have been exposed to supernatural elements. Containable levels. Ordinary humans.”

The old man archived the report shortly after scanning through it. Then, he shut his eyes to rest once more.

“That’s far too strict.” Back in the car, Wang Chenghao wiped the sweat from his forehead as he exclaimed. He knew full well that he hadn’t done anything wrong. Yet, under the incredibly oppressive tense atmosphere in the room earlier, he almost caved and spilled everything, including the size of his crown jewels.

And this was merely the entrance to the City of Salvation.

Qin Ye remained silent all this while, gazing meaningfully out the window as the bright lights in the tent passed him by. After driving on for approximately one kilometer, the car finally passed through the other end of the tent, and everything around them was bright and clear once more.

The autumn sun shone through the fine cloud cover, casting a hazy sheen across the lands. The street lights that lined the national highway bent over in a sleek, streamlined fashion, while the trees on the sides of the roads continued to sway with a gentle display of their golden leaves amidst the chilly autumn wind. Vehicles weaved in and out of the traffic as everyone appeared to be rushing into the heart of the city. Densely clustered buildings could be spotted in the distance, including skyscrapers, tall, hanging overpasses, and a television tower.

The sullen weather slowly faded, revealing a beautiful display on the canvass of nature. The welcome sight eased their tensed spirits and edgy hearts. It gave them a sense of boundlessness, almost as though the narrow path they had been on had just cleared up and widened into a massive road.

The City of Salvation was far more developed than the tiny Clear Creek County that they had been at.

Wang Chenghao wasn’t very old, and he hadn’t had many opportunities to travel far and wide. It was for this reason that he began to glance about at the surrounding scenery with great interest. His mood had become far more relaxed than before as well, “It’s much more relaxed on the outside than it was on the road in. They don’t seem too strict here…”

“Is that so?” Qin Ye pointed, “Look over there.”

Wang Chenghao quickly took a glance and suddenly noticed that rows of huge, newly erected electronic screens lined the sides of the national highway and extended well into the heart of the city. The screens continued to toggle between various images.

“Wind down the windows.”

As the windows rolled down, a female voice could be heard reading out a series of public announcements, “Dear friends, welcome to the City of Salvation. Please note that the City of Salvation is presently being used as the base of operations of a level five national military exercise. What you’re seeing now is the military garrison area of the City of Salvation. Therefore, we urge you to be mindful of the following points during your stay here.”

“Firstly, all red zones are off limits to non-authorized personnel. All trespassers will be dealt with accordingly.”

“Secondly, please note that a curfew is in place after 6.30 p.m. in order to facilitate the military exercise. All non-military personnel are reminded not to leave your homes or places of residence after 6.30 p.m. You may continue to enjoy the sights and sounds around the city in the day.”

“Thirdly, all who are leaving the City of Salvation are reminded to deregister your temporary residence permit with the city’s public security bureau and have your proof of identity with you at all times.”

“Otherwise, we sincerely wish you a pleasant stay with us.”

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